Protests against police violence feared after brutal death of black man in Memphis

The five police officers are suspected of beating 29-year-old Nichols to death during a traffic stop almost three weeks ago.

Protests against police violence feared after brutal death of black man in Memphis

The five police officers are suspected of beating 29-year-old Nichols to death during a traffic stop almost three weeks ago. They are charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault and kidnapping, among other things. Second-degree murder is an intermediate stage between murder and manslaughter in the state of Tennessee, where Memphis is located. Kidnapping in this case refers to the illegal detention of a human being.

Tire Nichols' death has been causing outrage in the United States for days. The 29-year-old was stopped in his car on the evening of January 7 because he was accused of dangerous driving. According to a police statement, a "confrontation" ensued and Nichols fled on foot. When the police caught him after a chase, another "confrontation" is said to have taken place. An ambulance was called because Nichols then complained of breathing difficulties.

The black man was taken to a hospital with serious injuries and died there three days later. An autopsy commissioned by the family concluded that Nichols had suffered massive bleeding as a result of "heavy beatings".

Nichols' mother, RowVaughn Wells, tearfully told CNN that police "beat her son to a pulp." She asked, "Where was the humanity?" Crying, she described her son's condition in the hospital: "His head was swollen like a watermelon. His neck was stretched to the point of bursting due to the swelling. They broke his neck."

Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis expressed her dismay at the 29-year-old's death in an online video. The actions of the police officers were "disgusting" and "inhuman". "This is not just a professional failure. This is a failure of basic humanity."

Video recordings of the incident should be released on Friday evening around 18.00 (local time, 01.00 Saturday CET) for reasons of transparency. Tennessee chief of police David Rausch said the footage was "absolutely appalling." Police Chief Davis suspected the images would "shock" people. Authorities feared violent protests could break out.

President Biden called for calm Thursday, saying, "As America mourns, the Justice Department conducts its investigation, and state agencies continue to do their work, I join Tire's family in calling for the protests to be peaceful." Anger is understandable, but violence is never acceptable, he added.

The exact circumstances of the alleged killing of Nichols were still unclear. The video was initially only shown to relatives and their lawyers. "This is a three-minute continuous beating of this young man," said Antonio Romanucci, one of the attorneys. The charges against the officers give them "hope as we continue to demand justice for Tyre," lawyers said.

In the USA, deadly police violence against black people causes horror and outrage again and again. Usually - if not in the case of Tire Nichols - white police officers are the perpetrators, as in the case of George Floyd, who was killed in an arrest in Minneapolis in May 2020.

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